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Canadian Immigrant

by Vivien Fellegi

May 22 2018

Indian-born filmmaker Eisha Marjara explores identity

Indo-Canadian filmmaker Eisha Marjara’s art has been a lifeline helping her cope with trauma and carve out her destiny. Marjara was only 19 years old when her growth ground to a halt after she lost both her mother and a sister in the Air India crash of 1985. Her pre-existing anorexia worsened, she shrank to skin and bones, and was admitted to a Montreal psychiatric ward where she was at times force fed through a tube connected to her stomach. Languishing for months in her hospital bed, overwhelmed with grief, she couldn’t find a single reason to get better.

Then one day her father brought in her old camera, and Marjara began taking pictures of her fellow patients. She reconnected to a forgotten passion for photography and decided to pursue a degree in the subject at Dawson College. As a fruitful future crystallized before her, it pushed Marjara to recover.

“There was something to work toward, and it motivated me to get my weight up and leave the hospital,” she says. She never went back. “Photography gave me a reason to live.”


TV, eh?

by Greg David

May 18 2018

Gorgeous Time Period Web Series Chateau Laurier Racks Up Record Views

If social media presence is a bona fide measure of success, Chateau Laurier is simply killing it. The web series has just crossed the three million views line on Facebook—in just two months—and shows no sign of slowing down. Couple that with 65,000 followers on Facebook … clearly, creator-producer-director James Stewart and co-writer-producers Emily Weedon and Kent Staines know what they’re doing.

What the trio has created in just three episodes of content—Season 1 of Chateau Laurier can be seen on the show’s Facebook page—is a sumptuous, gorgeous tale of a couple on the cusp of their arranged marriage taking place against the backdrop of Ottawa’s historic Chateau Laurier. Hattie Bracebridge (Kate Ross) is accompanied by her aunt (Fiona Reid) to the storied establishment where they meet Mr. Mutchmor (the late Bruce Gray, in his final role) and prepare for Hattie’s impending nuptials. But with one errant glance and a few steps away from the lobby, Hattie goes on an adventure that leads to a major twist.

Web Series CHATEAU LAURIER gains 3 million views in less than 2 months

May 09 2018

May 9, 2018 (Toronto) – The first season of the newly launched web series CHATEAU LAURIER has gained nearly 3 million views and 65,000 followers in less than 2 months, it was announced today by producer/director, James Stewart. Three episodes have rolled out on Facebook thus far, generating an average of nearly 1 million views per episode. In addition, it has been nominated for Outstanding Canadian Web Series at T.O. WEBFEST 2018, Canada's largest international Webfest.

Venus, award-winning film opens in Toronto & Vancouver theatres on May 18

April 30 2018

April 30, 2018 (Toronto) – VENUS, Eisha Marjara's comedic, heartwarming drama about a modern family in which genders, generations and cultures collide, will open at the Cineplex Yonge-Dundas Theatre, Toronto and at the Vancity Theatre, Vancouver on May 18, 2018.

VENUS tells the tale of Sid (Debargo Sanyal), a South Asian transitioning woman whose life is turned upside down when Ralph (Jamie Mayers), the “white” 14 year-old biological son she never knew she had, shows up unexpectedly at her door. Shot in Montreal, the upbeat film also deals with the hardship of transition and how it affects family and friends. VENUS has won numerous awards on the international film circuit, including most recently two awards at the 2018 Kiel Transgender Film Festival in Germany for Best Trans Performance (Debargo Sanyal) and Best Actor non-trans role (Jamie Mayers), as well as Best Narrative Feature at the 2018 Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose.

Sid is under pressure to marry a nice Indian girl and raise a family. His East Indian mother (Vancouver’s Zeena Daruwalla) yearns to have grandchildren. Her dreams are about to come true, but not in the way she ever imagined. When Sid comes out as a woman, a 14 year old boy named Ralph shows up at her door announcing that Sid is his parent. Although surprised to discover that his biological dad is now a woman, Ralph thinks having a transgender parent is pretty cool. But he hasn't told his mother and stepfather that he’s tracked down his biological father. And then there is Sid’s boyfriend Daniel (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), who has yet to tell his family of his relationship with Sid. Daniel is nowhere near ready to accept Ralph as a stepson and complicate his life further. Sid's coming out creates a snowball effect that forces everyone out of the closet.

VENUS is written and directed by Montreal-based Eisha Marjara, who first drew attention with the witty and satirical The Incredible Shrinking Woman. But it was her feature NFB docudrama Desperately Seeking Helen (2000), described as “one of the most auspicious film debuts on the Canadian scene,” that established her as a ground-breaking filmmaker. Her German-Canadian The Tourist (2006) was nominated as best short at the Female Eye Film Festival and her transgender drama House For Sale (2012) received multiple awards at various festivals. VENUS is Marjara’s first fiction feature and her second film featuring a transgender subject.


Now on Facebook: Chateau Laurier is a 10-minute, perfect Canadian drama with familiar themes

Globe and Mail

April 16 2018

By John Doyle, Television Critic

There’s a certain kind of Canadian TV content that people like. There’s no denying it. The content is period-piece drama with a dose of comedy.

There’s always an emphasis on costumes and matters of social class and money. Pinafores might well be featured. There’s usually a grumpy old person whose heart is melted by, you know, the sweetness and energy of youth. Somebody falls in love. Or maybe there’s a long-standing attraction that goes unspoken.

Listen, you can probably name a slew of shows just based on those clues.

Extrapolating meaning from this phenomenon is going on a fool’s errand. What’s it mean? You might be tempted to ask. Well, there’s not much to it except a characteristically Canadian deference to old-timey things, a peculiar nostalgia tinged with a very British twist on history. To those who would assert the phenomenon says something about Canadian archetypes and our value system I’d say, lighten up. That’s for another day, another column longer than this one. Possibly it demands an entire weekend conference of analysis and critique.

People like what they like. And if you like Murdoch Mysteries, Frankie Drake Mysteries and that species of content, you’ll know it has all disappeared from CBC’s main channel as the NHL playoffs take over the schedule. It’s the way it is.

But I urge you check out a tiny, perfect example of the Canadian genre in question. You can find it on Facebook, of all places. Heaven only knows what meaningful data Facebook will acquire from your perusal of this gem of the genre. But let’s leave that aside, along with the extrapolation of dangerous meaning.

Chateau Laurier is it, and it is about 10 minutes long. That’s correct, there are three episodes with two or three minutes of action in each. Don’t, just don’t, write to me about wasting your time. We’re talking 10 minutes here.

Set in the famous Ottawa hotel, but filmed in Toronto – it looks like the Fairmont Royal York – events are set in or about 1912. A young woman, Hattie Bracebridge (Kate Ross) is brought to the hotel on the eve of her arranged marriage to one Vivian Mutchmor (Luke Humphrey). Her chaperone, Mrs. Bracebridge (Fiona Reid), tells Hattie to quit her complaining and face up to the marriage. Hattie wanders off and has a little romantic adventure. Then, there’s a twist.

It’s all terribly charming. Kate Ross is excellent, a total scene-stealer as Hattie. “I’m about to be married off to some old prat,” she tells someone “downstairs” at the fancy hotel. Fiona Reid has done this kind of role about a thousand times and is good at it. It’s a pleasure to see the late Bruce Gray (in his last role) as the elder Mr. Mutchmor, and Kent Staines does what he, too, has probably done countless times, as an older chap at the hotel who tries to sort things out.

Here’s the thing about Chateau Laurier – it’s already been viewed more than a million times, in the space of a few weeks. I’m telling, you Canadians adore this category of content. Addicted is what they are.

Made by James Stewart and co-written by Staines with Emily Weedon, this tiny, impeccable slice of Canadiana looks like a calling card for a possible primetime series. If so, it sure looks like what Canadian producers and broadcasters will finance and air. Watch it, enjoy it and deduce your own meaning.

Globe and Mail article